I climbed a mountain and I looked around… part 1

8 Oct

The climax of the story is that I made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, 5800m. The lead up and aftermath makes for much of the story.

I arrived in Tanzania after traveling for over 24 hours! After getting my Visa I made my way to customs and immigration where the female agent looked at me and said “Oh you shine as bright as a star – beautiful. Welcome to Tanzania!!” I don’t know about you, but this was a very different customs experience than home. Normally they make you feel like you are bringing a body in your luggage and have cocaine shoved up your bum. It was as easy as that! I said good-bye to my seat-mate John and wished him the best of luck at shooting an African buffalo. I walked out to little guy with a big smile and a sign with my name on it. He brought me to a bus with a few other people on it and we peeled out of the parking lot. We arrived at a hotel different than the one I was expecting – they told me my hotel was overbooked and they would bring me to the original one in the morning. Oh, and that I would have a roommate for the night. I made my way to a common area where a little Japanese guy was near to hyperventilating. I noticed that his hand was bandaged up and that he had a lot of dry blood on his hands. I asked him if he was okay – he explained (in very broken English) to me that he had fallen on the street and ripped his hand up and in order to see the doctor he had to use all of the schillings he had and now he didn’t have any cash left as Japanese Yen isn’t accepted in Tanzania. I then acted as a meditator between him, hotel staff, a cook and a German. English, Swahili, German and Japanese. He told me I made him feel much better. I went cross eyed to my room and slept for 12 hours. I woke up to roosters, goats, motorcycles, singing and traffic sounds outside my window. Someone came and picked me up around lunchtime and we made our way to Springlands Hotel. The next morning we departed for Kilimanjaro. I learned about “African Time” – we were told we would depart at 8:30, I think we left around 10:30. We are so schedule based that it took a few days to let go of the need to be “on time” – what the hell does time matter when you are waiting to climb a 5800m mountain? So off we go all jammed into a bus shared with porters who let’s just say don’t wear deodorant. We drove 4 hours to the Kenyan side of the mountain. Conveniently there was a terrorist attack in Nairobi the day of my arrival. I kept thinking about my dear mother who was nervous about my trip in the first place turning on the TV only to see the news cover the story of violence in Kenya. To her the “Kenyan side of the mountain” was near to that mall and so she didn’t sleep all week.
We arrive at the entrance to the park. For 15 of us to go up the mountain we needed 50 support people! At the entrance the porters take all of our luggage, supplies, tents, food and bring it to a weigh station. It was quite the scene but somehow or another they get everything sorted, weighed and divided up among the porters to be carried up the mountain. This is where I really started to respect these people. Each porter carries 50 pounds on their head/back up the mountain for $5 a day. I could write about the people for hours and hours, but for the purpose of this post I will focus on the funny bits of the climb. Due to congestion at the weigh station the porters didn’t get to the campsite before us, so we found ourselves in the dark in the middle of the woods waiting for them to arrive. One by one they made their way to the site, but it was already pitch black, freezing and we were starved! Within an hour they whipped up for us this amazing African stew of sorts. I climbed into my tent and what happened for the rest of the week happened. I couldn’t sleep. For the following reasons: I wasn’t tired due to jetlag, my tent seemed to always be on a downward angle so I found myself sliding down my pad, it was freezing in and out of my tent and I was convinced I could hear wildlife outside of my tent. Over the course of the week I read 3 books, made new playlists and did a lot of thinking. You can’t possibly imagine the thoughts and scenarios that went through my head.
The next day was pretty status quo – 5 hours of hiking. So now I’ve been on the mountain for 2 days and up until now I’ve been whizzing in the bushes and no number two’s have hit yet. We got the next site. The “bathroom” was a tent that had in the middle of it a bucket with a toilet seat on the top. I wasn’t strategic in that I didn’t stand by the tent when it was being set up. By the time I made it there I went inside, flipped open the top and was shocked to see the bucket was full to the top with other peoples “stuff”. It sunk my battle ship. I couldn’t do it. I started to gag, my eyes watered and I got shivers. I quickly made my way out of the “bathroom”, put on my headlamp and made my way into the bushes. It must have been a combination of travel, altitude, change in food, but I think bowel movements (or lack thereof) was the number one topic of conversation. We cheered when Darren announced he had his first, we gave a standing ovation when Tristin finally “went”, high five’s were given as each person made it happen. I, however, didn’t get any high fives. For an otherwise “regular” girl, going 1,2,3,4 days without pooping is problematic. As I mentioned I had a lot of time to think about things in my tent… this continued until day number 5. I was coming back down the mountain with one of our guides Robert. We had a lot of hours together so we were doing a lot of talking when all of the sudden it hit me. It kind of felt like the same amount of force that the tidal bore comes into the Shubenacadie River. I started to sweat and clench my butt cheeks as I thought I was going to shit my pants. At this stage I am above the clouds so there are no trees or bushes anywhere. I said to Robert “Ummmm, Robert I really need to pee, can you walk ahead a little bit?” He did so. I took refuge behind a boulder. Behind that boulder a very dramatic scene occurred. It was a very low moment in my life.

Part 2 will come soon…

Mt Kili Top


2 Responses to “I climbed a mountain and I looked around… part 1”

  1. Sarah October 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Nice pic ….so many lessons!

  2. Ellie Macdonald October 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Amazing,funny,can’t wait for part 2:))

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